Indiana’s Republican Governor Mike Pence made headlines when he announced in late March that his state would soon abandon the Common Core standards. His announcement was fueled by fervor about state’s rights and the role of the federal government in what he, and many, believe should be a state’s responsibility: creating and enforcing K-12 education standards.
In the case of Indiana, the State Board of Education has until July 1 to develop the replacement standards that will go into effect in the fall of this year. Already teachers have been vocal about the difficulty of switching plans so quickly, particularly when they have already spent a good deal of time getting used to Common Core requirements. Other critics of Pence’s move say that the standards Indiana had in place prior to Common Core were very similar - if not harder. So there are some issues surrounding Indiana’s specific move to drop the requirements, but what about the basic principle?
What Indiana did may have appeared groundbreaking to outsiders, but anyone following the Common Core debate knows it is just the tip of the iceberg. As of March 19, there have been 225 bills filed in the U.S. that deal with ways for students to become college-ready. Of those, 100 are designed specifically to slow, halt or overturn Common Core requirements. So there are a lot of non-federal entities that feel their legislative toes have been stepped on when it comes to K-12 college readiness curriculum and testing.
So then the question becomes this: is this a fight over the actual standards or is it about jurisdiction?
To be sure, there are many arguments against what the standards contain. There are those who believe that the standards are completely off base, particularly in the area of writing. According to the American National Standards Institute, the writing requirements of Common Core were developed with no regard for the nearly 10,000 already-established standards. In a piece for the Huffington Post, education reformer Diane Ravitch points out:
“The Common Core standards were not written in conformity with the ANSI standard-setting process that is broadly recognized across every field of endeavor.”
Beyond academics though is a war that has been waged between state’s rights and the role of the federal government in uniform K-12 standards. On the surface, it does appear that Common Core standards are meant to give federal authority. In truth though there is some wiggle room for states to make the standards their own and places like Tennessee, Mississippi and Arizona are doing just that. If implemented in the way they were designed, Common Core requirements will actually put more control in the hands of the states and not the federal government.
Additionally, the myth that the federal government somehow wrote the standards is just that - untrue. Common Core was written by a group of state leaders who worked together to develop high standards for earning a diploma after K-12 completion. The Obama Administration tied Common Core implementation to the federal Race to the Top program, which is where some of the confusion stems. The option to implement Common Core, abandon it or tweak it to fit student needs falls squarely in the laps of the state. Gov. Pence’s very public abandonment of the standards was symbolic at best - a way to appease angry parents, state’s rights advocates and fellow Republicans. Switching to Indiana’s own version of the same standards will not change much about how students actually learn - but will cause some upheaval and loss of resources in the process.
Before other states jump on Indiana’s bandwagon, state leaders should consider what it is they are truly fighting against, and who may suffer in the name of principle.
What are your arguments for or against Common Core?
Dr. Matthew Lynch is the author of the recently released book, The Call to Teach: An Introduction to Teaching. To order it via Amazon, please click on the following link.
The opinions expressed in Education Futures: Emerging Trends in K-12 are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.